12 Nov 2008

Conversation and Word-of-Mouth Marketing

We’re hitting the afternoon hard over here. Mark Jackson is moderating with speakers Todd Parsons, Louise Rijk and Ben Fisher. I can has cookie? Please? My stomach is growling.

Louise Rijk is up first and has the hardest name to spell ever.

Word of Mouth marketing is as old as the hills (not these Hills). WOM is the act of consumers proving honest information to other consumers. It’s driven by influencers with large social networks who are inspired to talk positively about a brand, product or service.

Organic WOM occurs naturally when people become advocates because they are happy with a product or service. Amplified WOM happens when marketers launch campaigns to accelerate organic WOM.

Word of Mouth Marketing happens when people are given a reason to talk about your service. It’s based on driven customer satisfaction, two-way dialogue and transparent communications.

Online Word of Mouth Marketing includes online consumer activities using Internet tools that allow the exchange of ideas about products, services and brands through social networks. Online WOMM does not disappear after a conversation.

Big Brands and Word of Mouth: You’ve never seen a Google commercial. You don’t see Twitter advertising (Twitter is a big brand? Is the world ending or something?). It’s all through word of mouth.  Advertising is still very important to accelerate a campaign.

Organic WOM is the most effective. People on the “receiving side” of WOM are more impressed by advice given by a true user of a brand.

What are the marketing goals? What are you trying to accomplish? How can you use traditional and social media to create a really great offer? She’s working with a company that does personal binders. Years ago binding service was very expensive, but now you can get a personal binder very inexpensively.  They came to Louise for help building the conversation. They had to ID the target markets on the social media sites. They put together a mixture of ways to drive traffic to their offer.  Once people sign up, it goes to the client and they can ID the influencers. They then selected 50 influencers and asked them to put a video up/take some Flickr photos, etc. They’re targeting people who are already using those social vehicles and can use them to review the product, regardless of whether it’s positive or negative. They’ll be able to track that campaign to see how powerful it is.  They’re also doing email and SEO and PPC on top of that. It all works together to create the buzz and brand the company.


  • Advertising accelerates WOM recommendations
  • Online and Offline and WOM all go together and should be part of your marketing mix
  • WOM, because it’s conversational, is on the rise.

Todd Parsons is up.

WOM used to happen over drinks. Today it happens on Facebook, MySpace, Twiter, YouTube, Digg, Friendfeed, Blogger, etc. And it’s measurable.

As marketers we use the term conversation very loosely. If you look a the gestures on social media (the linking, the commenting) what you have is a very good proxy for WOM in a measurable way that can be used to drive very successful marketing projects online.

Blogs are the largest, most mature WOM platform. There are 77 million unique users, that’s more than Facebook or MySpace. 25 million people blog regularly. 90 percent of bloggers organically talk about brands. Most Web users don’t realize they’re on a blog when they are. Link-rich blog content dominates search engine results and captures consumer attention.

WOM on blogs is powerful stuff.

Blog readers profile:

  • 65 percent say they are seeking an opinion
  • 50 say blog content was useful in making a purchases
  • 56 percent say niche blogs help them make purchasing decisions

More readers follow links in blogs to discover new content than they do keyword search. Links in blogs rank just as high in trust as a personal recommendation. It’s not a “get in, get out” mentality. 71 percent of frequent blog readers read more than 1 post per session.

How do you do marketing in this environment?


  • What is being said already?
  • How big is the conversation?
  • Who is participating? Who’s leading?

Two Strategies to Consider

  • Create, extend or modify existing online WOM
  • Leverage WOM as new inventory for existing online advertising campaigns.

He offers up two case studies:

Part 1: Intelligent WOM Generation

Harlequin Romance Objectives: Create meaningful WOM around he brand. Drive report downloads.

Worked with SEO-PR & BuzzLogic to ID influential sites leading conversations around love, relationships, dating and romance.

What happened: Analyzed coverage and conversation growth after report release. Tracked traffic.


  • Research/ Analysis is critical: know the WOM landscape before you act.
  • Understand your specific objectives: what d you want the WOM to do?
  • Measurement is Key: have the appropriate systems in place to measure a specific WOM results.
  • Extend WOM shelf life: did you successfully generate some great WOM? Many of hese sites are great spots for online ads as well.

Last but not least is Ben Fisher. Everyone say hi to Ben. HI BEN!

Ben just asked how many people play video games. An embarrassing amount of people raised their hands. The joys of a nerd conference.

[We’re having some PowerPoint difficulties. Amuse yourselves. Perhaps go Twitter something…]

One of the things he focuses on is doing your research. You have to DECIDE.

  • Determine: Where do you want to be? Where are the conversations happen?
  • Evaluate: Where should you participate?
  • Create: Create a plan
  • Identify: Where you will be interacting?
  • Develop: Develop a strategic plan around discussions you want to comment on.
  • Effectiveness: Measure your results.

The PN3 System: Created to label social media discussion in blogs and forums over a 15 day period. It’s used to determine how to categorize information on 4 levels – Positive Buzz, Negative Buzz, Neutral Buzz, No Buzz.

Video Game Case Study:

Goal: Assist in launch of Demo and Price Drop

  1. Analyzed Data from 15 Day Period
  2. Discovered need for drop and who was influencing
  3. Interacted with Discussions
  4. End Results — 20 percent increase in unit sales. Discovered new marketing/PR outlets.

Blog Interaction must be Controversial, Necessary and Ethical. You should only interact with product or services you are knowledgable about. They never use their services to promote nonproductive, negative campaigning. Always be truthful, never negative and be yourself. [And use your own voice!]

And that’s it from the WOM crew. A quick 5 minute break and then we’re off to the blogging roundtable.